The king in an iron grip

2/1/2004 – After a week of absence (GMs occasionally do play in tournaments) Saidali Yuldashev has returned to Tashkent to take up the game against Uzbek TV audience and the ChessBase public. Unfortunately our king is in a cage, so that most people think we are fighting for a draw, while some are more optimistic. There's a lot of excellent analysis in Jamshid Begmatov's weekly report.

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Usbek TV audience vs Saidali Yuldashev

By Jamshid Begmatov

Hi all!

We are back and we resume our game against GM Saidali Yuldashev, the champion of Uzbekistan. First of all I bring you my apologies for last week’s absence. The reason is that the GM was playing in a tournament in India last week and on Saturday, when his move was due, he was traveling by train to another town for another tournament and was out of reach both by phone and email.

The votes last week mainly split between 28.Ba3 and 28.Re3, and the latter won by very few votes. The grandmaster replies 28...g4 and now we have the black Bishop and white King completely locked in the corner of the board.

But first our tradition is to look at some most interesting comments. I would like to note here that all the moves are based on the majority of votes and I never influence the course of the game in any way. Some of the players were unhappy with my draw offer last week, but I repeat it was the decision of the majority to offer it. Here is the position we were discussing:

Uzbek TV+ChessBase Audience – Saidali Yuldashev

Many of you stated in your comments that White easily draws the game, but the experts say it takes White a very careful play to draw, while Black has actually a draw in hand. So please think well and submit your move here. But before you make your decision, I would highly recommend all players to carefully read the analyses and comments kindly submitted by Alonzo McCaulley, our devoted player from Antelope, USA, as well as all other comments, so you can exchange your ideas and understand what the others think and plan.

Alonzo McCaulley, Antelope, Ca USA

A test! Our GM opponent has seen fit to examine our eyes, ears, and resolve or better yet our coordination, consultation and evaluation! Since he has not accepted the draw it becomes obvious he wants to see if we can collectively find the correct plan. Let us try to play a worthy endgame. I will try to build or modify my plan to bring some continuity to my suggestions. Again I ask that you please relay your plans along with your moves. We need them to evaluate the position and try to find our "voice" in the position. Together we may prove ourselves worthy of the draw many of us seek.

Evaluation: White has an extra pawn and control of the only open file; however our K is trapped and could be locked in permanently. We still have to be aware of potential back rank mates so allowing lines to open up is NOT an option. White has to face the facts that while we have a material advantage it is very unlikely we will be able to take advantage of it. Due to Black's active R he may even be better despite the pawn deficit. NOTE: Black does not want to trade R's as most of his (and our) winning chances go out the window if the R's come off the board. We should not fear the exchange of R's since our winning chances remain low if black locks our K in.

White Goals/Objectives:

1) Free our self of the back rank mate threats. Re3 looks like our last chance and black most likely will NOT let us out.

2) Activate our pieces. Moves like Ba3 & Re3 are the only obvious moves now. Where to place the R later depends on the next few moves.

3) Create a passed pawn and push, push, push----THIS MAY NOT BE AN OPTION ANY LONGER. Creating a passed pawn will open up lines black can use to infiltrate our position. This should be done only after CAREFUL consideration. I recommend putting this on the back (way back) burner for now. Goals 1 & 2 should be our primary focus now.

Black Goals/Objectives:

1) Maintain or increase space advantage moves like ...f3 (which he played) and ...Rc8 (pressuring c3 & restricting our B) is the most obvious threat. Black will also move his Q-side pawns forward to try and pry open some lines for his R.

2) Activate his K. At this point he needs to get to the Q-side help black break thru. The R on the e-file prevents him from getting there. We should maintain that blockade as long as possible

3) Activate his B before playing …g4. We must strive to prevent that which is why my suggested move will be 28. Re3.

4) If that fails exchange into a drawn endgame.

Ways to play the position:

1) 28. Re3 attacking the f3 pawn, which is restricting us and protect c3 our weak point. I believe that e3 is the best square for the R in the long term. It forces black to make a commitment on how he is going to play the position. NOTE: If black can move his B back BEFORE playing g4 he will have another piece to help break in on the Q-side. WE MUST TRY TO PREVENT THIS. Also any later attempt to play h4 could result in an en passant capture where black ends up with a passed (potentially protected) pawn. In my opinion black has several responses which include

a) 28…Rf8 29. Re5 Rf5 30. Rxf5 Bxf5 which should allow us to draw

b) 28…Bg4 29. h3 Bxh3 30. Rxf3 which is unlikely since this frees us

c) 28…g4 locking us and his B in for the duration of the game. (My choice if I was black)

d) 28…Bg2 also not likely since 29. h3 looks playable.

2) 28. Ba3 to head for c5. From c5 our B would also cover our weak c-pawn and make it harder for black to open up lines on the Q-side. NOTE: Bc5, b4 & a3 and black should not be able to open any file on the Q-side. This is something we should keep our eyes on later. However I think we need to restrict black (just as he has done to us) as much as possible. Our primary goal right now is to restrict black or gain activity for our pieces. 28. Re3 will force black to make a choice now-g4 and restrict us permanently or allow us some freedom. Black has a draw in hand-we must fight back and show him that is all he can get.

Steven S. Tam, Plainsboro NJ, USA
Welcome back safe and healthy! And much regret for those in the plane crash! Can your government have better say on air travel safety? Get some better and safer planes!

In the game White has some attacking chances, despite the lock-in position of its King. If Black moves 28... Rc8, then 29. Bb4 and the Bishop and c-Pawn form a strong couple. The advance of Black's a-Pawn could not deter this. With White's Rook guarding the e-file, Black's King-side pawns and the strong Bishop on h-file could not cause any damage at least temporarily. Then later, White can advance his a-Pawn, and create a push-through (if things go well!)

If Black either moves his Rook or King to the 7th rank, White has a check follow by the Bishop's action. But the c-Pawn must be securely guarded! The most critical line is the baseline! If Black succeeds in dashing his Rook to rank 1, White is finished! The defense line will take 28. Bc1. But this is too passive. If 28.... Rc8, then White is forced to guard the c-Pawn with 29. Bd2, and subsequently has nowhere to go, while Black can advance his g-and h-Pawns at leisure.

I agree with Alonzo McCaulley of CA, USA, that we should have some united ideas. The apparently dull-draw endgame is actually pretty intense.

I am curious WHY you said last time you offered the GM a draw? Is this the voting? Or, just your OWN idea?? I think personally we (White) should just play on. Even though Black got a space advantage, and as somebody says, White's extra Pawn does not give extra benefit, I still vote to fight on! This is all Chess is about! Keep fighting until it's dead! It's meaningless for White to stop counter attack and wait to blunder or contend for a draw!

John Crooks, Stilwell, KS USA
After looking at the position some more, I fail to see any way in which Black can win. There are several tries to defend for White which seem to be okay. Ba3, Re5, but I like Re3 as this move puts the question to Black immediately as to how to defend the f-pawn. My computer prefers Ba3 by the way as it sees that after Rd6 Rxf3 Re6 Re3 Rxe3 White's chances of winning the opposite colored Bishop ending two pawns up is essentially nil.

If Black plays g4 then although White's King is entombed, Black will not be able to make headway after Ba3. If Black could manage to trade Rooks then the King versus Bishop endgame could actually favor Black, however, Black cannot engineer this trade as after Kf7 White gets in Re7 and Black is forever held off the file. If Black tries Bg4 instead, then White gets Re5 h6 h4! and with the back rank mating threat gone it is White if anyone that has winning shots here.

I think the game is dead drawn unless Black pushes too hard and gives White chances. The only question would be why play on the extra few moves rather than take the perpetual. Any why not accept the draw offer. What is the GM seeing that I am missing?!

Nelson Hernandez, San Francisco, CA
My assessment is simple enough: Bc1 and Re3 are the only two other attractive moves. After analyzing these further both trend inexorably toward a draw with perfect play, and toward defeat if we make even a slight mistake.

Conversely Ba3 gives us multiple safe ways to arrive at a quiet draw and a couple of potential winning lines if black goes for a win. A winning outcome for us depends entirely on black gambling that somewhere in the next 15 or so moves we will make a small technical blunder, offering the opening he needs. Conversely if black plays conservatively I don't think there's any way for us to break through.

If Ba3 is the selected move, black has two possible replies: Bf5 (we respond Re5) or Kf7 (we answer Re7+).

David Clarke, Oregon, USA
I suggest Bc1 since White's only hope is to harass Black's looser pawns though this will be much more difficult with a trapped King. White will need to use Bishop and Rook to do the harassing. I worry, though, because the gap between a grandmaster and the rest of us grows larger in complex endgames.

Maged Mohamed, Damanhour, Egypt
I agree with the comment that said: white should gives two pawns in order to release his king and his rook of looking for the 1st rank. By following it with h3 later and putting the bishop at d2 to put some pressure on blacks king side .... only hope is to creating a passing pawn on the queenside while guarding black's one on the kingside. Does White has this time?? I doubt it but what is better?!!

Andrew Bell, Vancouver, Canada
28.Ba3. White has to accept his fate here -- his king is in a prison, and he needs couterplay on the queenside without exasperating his back-rank fears. I see black forcing a rook exchange and marching his hungry king toward the queenside pawns. I don't see an easy refute, but I am starry-eyed about a bishop operating from a3-f8 and the rook applying pressure on e5. Note that if black forces his bishop to exile with g4, then white has that much more opportunity for queenside pressure (albeit, I think we are playing for a draw at best).

Mike Rosensaft, Philadelphia, USA
28.Re3. It makes me very nervous that our king is entombed, but what to do about it? Sac'ing the rook for the bishop is the only way to give the king movement again, but at this point there isn't a way to get good compensation from that. Therefore, I think we need to lock up the center. Allowing any more files to open up in this position is just asking for a back rank mate. Re3 makes black take a quick decision about the f3 pawn -- either protecting it by g4, which would doom black's bishop to the same fate of white's king; or Rh8. I think white's bishop should stay on b2 to stop black from opening things up on the kingside. Black will probably start marching his king out. I think the only viable goal for white at this point is to try to hold the position, but we'll see.

Scott Gabe, Portland, Or.
I suggest the move: 28.a3. Whites rook really can't go a rooming from his back rank. After an exchange of rooks, whites king can't help on the queenside, so with b's of opposite color and computer tech the result should be a draw. remember black's bishop is tied down to keeping the king tied down so's whats a body to do. and b for white to c-5 is ok to block the backward c pawn....is there anything else????? perhaps there are lines where white plays rook to c1 to get a passed pawn looks too dangerous to me. black gets the king file and what fun is that???? thanks to all for keeping me interested, the grandmaster outplayed the computer with better chess, a draw should be enough....

Mark Zimmerman, Hutchinson, Kansas USA
White is on the defensive and fighting for a draw, so it would seem that the best strategy would be to try and secure the Queenside against a breakthrough by the black pawns and rook by Ba3, Bc5 (or Bb4) and a3. Leaving the Rook on the e-file looks best to prevent the Black King from having any effect on the Queenside. However, it seems that Black does have a good attack after g4 and h5 looking to open the Kingside and penetrate with the rook there. White playing g4 Bxg4, h3 Bxh3, Kh2 g4 gives White some room, but Black will get a tremendous attack on the Kingside. Overall, it looks somewhat bleak for White as White will be purely on the defensive.

Mark Maslov, Chicago, USA
28.Ba3 seems to best activate the passive bishop. The idea is to eventually get the bishop to c5 and the rook to e5. Once this is achieved, we must ensure that no additional files open up. If black tries to advance the pawn on the a file, we will likely end up with pawns locked on a2-a3, b4-b5, and d4-d5. After this, I think the position might be a draw.

Joel, Murang
The move f3 startled me a bit as I had not expected it. Now I realise we just have to change our plan round a bit. First of all his Bishope will have to move away at some point (well next move actually). And when it does our rook will be on e5, maybe our bishop on c5 and our King will start to run out and our pieces will be SO much more active than his. And again, I do believe we are winning I'm just confused and startled that Black didn't accept our draw offer. He can't really believe that he has a chance? We White Players need to have more confidence.

Ronen Harpaz, Tel-Aviv, Israel
28.Re3 White should fight for draw and this move serve 2 purposes: 1. force 28. g4 which cuts the black bishop from the game (28. Bg4 29.h3 or 28. Rf8 29. Re5) this seems to me quite fair because our king is allready cuts off. 2. protect the c3 pawn and release our bishop. After 28. g4 we should play 29.Ba3 and later on we should accept rooks exchange only when we are sure we can protect our position.

Charles Zupanic, San Bernardino, Ca. USA
The GM has played to f3 and declined our draw offer. That means he thinks he still has chances and we will have to force a draw. White's king is still trapped and now the white rook is trapped too because white's rook has to defend that file. If white's king is trapped and the GM is able to force a rook trade, then what will stop black's king from coming down the b1-h7 diagonal? If white plays to e3 next, will the GM play his bishop to g4 to protect or will he play the pawn to g4? If he plays the bishop to g4, then white's king can get out of the box by moving the h pawn up. If he plays the pawn to g4, then a rook trade will allow him to play his king down that diagonal and the wolf will be in among the sheep. I am sure the GM sees this possibility and that is probably his plan. So we must have a plan as well. Can white activate his bishop first, wait to exchange rooks on e3 and the king then escape? Can white try playing to e5 next, then activate his bishop and eventually exchange rooks on the e5 square, leaving a passed pawn on e5, defended by white's bishop? Or perhaps exchange rooks somewhere on the e file and then play to c4 trying to pass a pawn? Any of these options could hold black's king at bay. There seems to still be many threats for white to face with only some risky counterplay for white to try, and probably only this GM and Fritz can look that far down the road. I don't think white can hope for much more than a draw here in any case. So, let's play e1-e3 and see what the GM has planned. Then we can decide how to activate our bishop and make our own plans. Best wishes to you Jamshid, for your good health and good fortune and thank you chessbase.

Thanos, Greece
28.g3-g4. I think that this is the last chance of white to free his king. Of course this move implies a loss of a pawn or maybe two. Nevertheless it is the last chance to have some counterplay,

Patrick Foley, Davis, USA
28.Ba3 The white King remains hemmed in, but the same goes for the black bishop. White needs to limit the mobility of the black rook, retain control of the e file, probe at the weaknesses of the d, f and g pawns with his rook and perhaps bishop in order to commit those kingside pawns to white squares and be prepared to exchange rooks (having won another pawn, either the d or f pawn) in a position to push his own queenside majority at the moment Black's King threatens to invade white's Queenside. With care and self-discipline, white should be able to retain the draw.

Nuno, Portugal
28.Ba3. Lets watch clearly at the game... seems that somehow black managed to keep is tactical advantage throught the entire game ... leaving us in a sufocating endgame... from my point of view we should consider 2 things ... first the fact that sacrificing 2 pawns in order to free the white king is suicidal ... cause it loses tempos and it masters blacks winning chance... common he have one extra pawn ... we just need someway to avoid the black rook penetration on the e-file which its the killer thing here since there?s a mate treath on e1 .... secondly we must first see that we are playing with half a rook and full bishop and black playing with a full rook and a full king ... seems too me that we are not totally lost ... if we can find such a survival move as Rd8! we also can find an escaping way out of this sufocating endgame...my sugestion is playing Ba3 cause besides being the more logical move. It also is our only chance to avoid black's rook penetration on e-file ... with this move we can make the plan of putting our rook on the 7th rank ... but we must be aware of the full trick black rook... but with this incredible bishop move all black winning plans will fall leading too a drawish endgame ... but beware. it's still not over.

Arvin Juntereal, Philadelphia, PA
It is good to hear that Jamshid is now feeling alright after a bout with flu. More power to you, Jamshid, and to the Chessbase team. Back to the game, I think the GM has made the right move here by locking in the White's king, which made the game very interesting. I overlooked Black's reply when analyzing the position and thought that the only option Black had was to exchange the rooks. I believed that the game would be drawn in this case. Now the GM is playing for a win. His plan is simple. After the White's king is locked in, he probably intends to activate his own king, exchange his rook with the other rook, and penetrate the queenside with his king via the square e4.

Personally, I do not consider this endgame lost for White. We still have an active rook that controls the e file and a bishop that can protect the queenside pawns, in case Black carries out the plan I mentioned above. Besides, his rook does not have open an file and has no target of attack (no White pawn weaknesses). This is my recommended sequence of moves. 28.Re3! g4 29.Ba3 Kf7 30.Bc5 Kg6 31.Re5!, and Black's king is suddenly prevented from gaining ground.

Another plan for Black is the attack down the h file by advancing his h pawn to h4, playing his rook to the h file, exchange pawns, and play the bishop to g2 (and mate on h1), but this plan is too slow and may be impractical to be the grandmaster's choice here. So my personal opinion is this: although Black has come up with a dangerous plan (he can succeed if we do not play accurately), we are not without chance of drawing the game.

The game

Uzbek TV+ChessBase Audience – Saidali Yuldashev
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 12.d4 Bd6 13.Re1 Qh4 14.g3 Qh3 15.Re4 g5 16.Qe2 f5 17.Bxd5+ cxd5 18.Re6 f4 19.Rxd6 Bg4 20.Qf1 Rae8 21.Nd2 Qxf1+ 22.Nxf1 Re1 23.b3 Bh3 24.Bb2 Rfe8 25.Rd8 Rxf1+ 26.Rxf1 Rxd8 27.Re1 f3

See you next week!
Jamshid


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